The event of the coronavirus in China is understandably one that businesses need to comprehend, unravel the media hype and find clarity on.
For a take on potential effect, Vogue Business took a look at this today on WeChat. For reliable news on the status, check the WHO rather than media headlines.
The situation has seen businesses showing their support by donating and sending messages of care. It’s understandable for any brand – particularly those operating in China – to want to show their support during this difficult time for the Chinese people. But it’s important to do so with consideration, authenticity and thought for how to express this in the best way possible.
For a reference point, large brands and groups have quickly shown support for China – examples of the notable contributions include:
• LVMH has donated USD 2.3 million to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation
• Kering has donated USD 1 million to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation
• Large multinationals including Microsoft, Dell, L’Oreal and Cargill have donated CNY 10 million collectively to the Chinese Red Cross and authorities in Hubei.
• Swarovski has donated CNY 3 million to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.
• Trendy International Group, the parent of Miss Sixty, Orchirly and Five Plus, has donated CNY 10 million to the Wuhan government.
• Peacebird donated CNY 10 million to the Ningbo government (their HQ is based in Ningbo).
• Chinese corporations such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have also donated huge sums.
Yet it’s not only about donations – other brands have shown solidarity with messages of support on Chinese social media and smaller acts of kindness, whether distributing facemasks to employees in China or the like.
If your business is considering how best to act or communicate during this time, here are a few key points to consider:
1. Don’t remain silent
In times of uncertainity, it’s sometimes natural to lose your voice. Don’t remain silent. If you are still planning what to do as a business, a simple message showing support on social media, a personal note to customers and a letter of support to employees might be a natural first step.
2. Keep the message and action simple
If unsure, keep the messaging simple.
If your brand’s purpose is to simply show that your thoughts are with Chinese people, keep the messaging simple and to that point, rather than try and emphasise a lot of details (such as how long the brand has been in China, just for example). This is not the time to educate people on your brand’s key messages.
Other businesses are helping to spread best practices of how people can stay safe during this period. In this case, make sure what you are sharing comes from official sources and stick to the facts.
For donations, revealing the amount donated and where it is going (such as the Chinese Red Cross or Wuhan authorities) maintains simplicity, rather than overly stating financial donation.
3. Create from China
Involve your teams, people and partners on the ground in China when developing plans and a response to the situation. They are most likely more aware of the current sentiment, the reality and what other business are doing. They should be able to advise on how best to support.
In addition, the messaging where possible should be created in China, by Chinese staff or agencies on the ground. This is a time where it cannot be emphasised enough that any messages or support must be created and approved by your people in China. The tonality is vital to reflect how Chinese people are dealing with the issue and what’s happening.
In terms of business continuity, listen to government guidelines and stay informed of developing daily news. Your people in China will greatly appreciate ongoing internal communication about any issues, from office action plans to re-scheduling and so on.
4. It’s a time for empathy and heart
At the current time, the news and society itself is focused on the development of the outbreak and relevant daily updates. It should be noted that there is still positivity and belief that the situation is being handled and will improve. Coming in during this time with ‘service as usual’ promotions and campaigns may seem like a lack of care and thought.
This is a time to live and demonstrate the values of your business. Act with heart, kindness, respect and compassion. The feeling on the ground in China is one of togetherness, solidarity and communal spirit. It’s a difficult time for many, so showing that your business cares with acts of kindness and support, no matter how small, go along way.